Thursday, July 09, 2015

Is Biosecurity Adequate in Northern Australia?

There is a lot of  future for north Australia that is dependent on effective biosecurity in the region.

Over the past several years the litany of biosecurity breaches seems to be significant :
  • Panama disease in a major production area of bananas in north Queensland - Tropical Race 4 [ TR4] a highly pathogenic variant
  • known areas of the same disease around Darwin, and banning bananas being grown in some NT areas, and restrictions on banana plant movements
  • a major effort at eradication of Banana Freckle disease near Darwin  after the exotic disease was found in the NT
  • Cucumber Green Mottle Mosaic Virus in curcurbits, especially melons, in the NT in 2014 and adjacent states also potentially infected, but not all jurisdictions are looking yet
  • an Asian Bee colony discovered in Darwin in the last few days, after hitching a ride on a caravan, but with an absent queen - who is suspected of absconding with a new colony and may be setting up locally [ if that establishes then there will be mayhem]
Asian honey bees

  • culicoides driven diseases also seem to be increasing - with blue tongue arriving many years ago from wind borne insects, and more recently a few more cases of chikungunya around the north [ at least so far the mosquito involved in spread does not seem to be around]; dengue outbreaks in some locations in north Queensland [ although the Australian derived disease in mosquities - Wolbachia may be a great agent to make a difference] if needed, as well as considerable issues surrounding other mosquito diseases such as Ross River Fever and variants as well as Murray Valley Encephalitis.  
We would like to see more agricultural development in the north of Australia, but biosecurity does need to be remembered......and emphasised.

While there has been money marked to be used for improved biosecurity in the north the track record is not all that encouraging.  And one must not forget human diseases either.

A meeting this week included a presentation on the dollars to be allocated to biosecurity improvements, R and D, upgraded awareness etc.  And presented by someone from outside the north Australia area seemed to leave local north Australia scientists and producers rather underwhelmed.  Some stated that industry  - a very diverse one at that - is not being adequately consulted or even advised.  One thinks of plant based industries - but often just the major ones of temperate Australia, but seems to forget fish farms, prawn farms, crocodiles and other non mainstream animal industries let alone the plant and animal based industries that thrive in the north - nurseries, asian vegetables, sugar, chia, cattle, pastures etc.  Are they being assessed adequately for biosecurity threats?

These are recent media release on new measures in biosecurity for north Australia, but there is little detail.  Finding any information on detail is also VERY difficult, as it seems to be hidden away from easy access.

Biosecurity might not be very sexy in terms of rural development - but it is important, and needs greater highlighting of what is being planned.

No comments: